US echoes calls to probe Cuban dissidents' deaths

The United States backed calls Thursday for an international inquiry into the deaths of two leading Cuban dissidents who were killed in a car crash last year.

Washington "supports the calls for investigation with independent and international observers into the circumstances leading into the deaths of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Earlier this month Rosa Maria Paya petitioned the United Nations to probe the death of her father, claiming he had been murdered by the Cuban regime.

"Mounting and credible allegations that the Cuban government may have been complicit in the murder of its most prominent critic... cannot go ignored by the international community," reads her petition, signed by 46 politicians, members of parliament and human rights activists from around the world.

The two men were killed in July, and Cuban authorities say the rental car they were in, driven by Spanish conservative youth leader Angel Carromero, lost control when it hit an unpaved section of road, and crashed into a tree.

But Carromero told The Washington Post earlier this month that the car had been hit from behind and run off the road.

He was sentenced to four years in prison for his alleged role in causing the fatal crash, but after several months was transferred to Spain, where he is serving out the sentence.

"The people in Cuba and families of these two activists deserve a clear and credible accounting of the events that resulted in their tragic deaths," Nuland told journalists.

She added that the US had supported the call for an investigation "privately," but now wanted to "add our voice as clear and loud as possible."